Pirelli Leads in Australia

Perth (AUS), 11 November 2005 - The Subaru-Pirelli of Petter Solberg leads after the opening leg of the all-gravel Rally Australia , the final round of the World Rally Championship, with a lead of nearly a minute over the second-placed competitor. Unfortunately, his team mate Chris Atkinson, who led for most of the morning, lost two and a half minutes with a broken steering arm but has since recovered to 10 th place. The Mitsubishi-Pirelli of Harri Rovanpera ends leg one in a strong fourth, ahead of his team mate Gigi Galli in sixth. The Peugeot-Pirelli of Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire from third place with broken suspension on SS7. Nonetheless, the Pirelli runners set nine fastest times out of 11 throughout day one: an extremely encouraging performance. The opening leg of Rally Australia consisted of five gravel forest stages before two runs over the short spectator superspecial in Perth city centre. The weather was warm and dry as expected, with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade. Pirelli's three partner teams (Subaru, Peugeot and Mitsubishi) chose a wide variety of tyres from the P Zero range, including the KM, the KP and the K, in order to best suit their road position and strategy. The leader, Petter Solberg, said: " I chose the hardest KM2 tyre in the hot conditions of the afternoon and it worked extremely well, despite the fact that I was running second on the road and I had a lot of loose gravel. Pirelli has been working extremely hard and the result is clear to see. I feel very sorry for Chris: without his problems we could easily have been first and second tonight." Australia is also the final round of the Production Car World Rally Championship, which is led by the Pirelli-equipped Group N Subaru of Mark Higgins, ahead of the similar Impreza of Toshi Arai. Rally Australia (15/16) - Classification after leg one 1 Solberg-Mills Subaru Impreza WRC 1h14m58.0s 2 Duval-Smeets Citroen Xsara WRC +46.6s 3 McRae-Grist Skoda Fabia WRC +48.0s 4 Rovanpera-Pietilainen Mitsubishi Lancer WRC +1m03.5s 5 Stohl-Minor Citroen Xsara WRC +1m13.4s 6 Galli-d'Amore Mitsubishi Lancer WRC +1m20.2s 7 Gardemeister-Honkanen Ford Focus WRC +1m37.6s 8 Kresta-Tomanek Ford Focus WRC +1m46.8s 9 Sola-Amigo Ford Focus WRC +2m00.9s 10 Atkinson-Macneall Subaru Impreza WRC +2m09.3s